San Antonio Spurs match best start in team history

By Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 12, 2016 at 12:40 AM
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NEW YORK -- Things are going so well for the San Antonio Spurs that forward LaMarcus Aldridge could joke about rookie center Boban Marjanovic threatening to take his spot in the starting lineup.

While Aldridge's 25 points and 11 rebounds helped the Spurs match their best start in team history with a 106-79 rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Marjanovic's 13 points provided another highlight.

"I don't know, he's playing great," Aldridge said. "His PER (player efficiency rating) per 48 must be really good right now but he's been great for us, playing confident, playing big down low, blocking shots and finishing strong. I think teams are definitely seeing how much of a problem he is down low."

Aldridge and the rest of the Spurs held a 60-49 lead when the 7-foot-3 native of Serbia checked in for the first time with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter. He helped the Spurs expand the margin to 77-56 with a dunk, two free throws and a nifty finger-roll layup, which led to cheers from some fans.

"I feel amazing about it," Marjanovic said. "This is good because if people love you, you're good and I feel great."

The 27-year-old, who wears size 19 sneakers, then heard more cheers when he added a block of Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic midway through the fourth. The final cheers came when Marjanovic added a layup and two dunks as San Antonio shot 75 percent in the final two minutes.

"I like him," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "That's why we signed him. He's really an intelligent player. He's hard-working and just learning. So every minute he gets really helps him develop. (He's) got great hands, (and) knows how to play."

While Aldridge helped the Spurs early and Marjanovic finished it off, forward Kawhi Leonard also contributed. He finished with 17 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter after Brooklyn cut the lead to 15.

Those performances helped the Spurs improve to 33-6, equaling the team's best 39-game start, a mark set by the 2010-11 edition. San Antonio also posted its league-leading 14th win by at least 20 points while extending its winning streak to eight games on a night when guard Tony Parker scored six points and center Tim Duncan had eight.

A day after firing coach Lionel Hollins and reassigning general manager Billy King, the Nets were not much better in interim coach Tony Brown's debut while owner Mikhail Prokhorov watched from a suite. Brooklyn missed 10 of 12 3-point attempts and committed 19 turnovers, resulting in 30 San Antonio points.

"The second half they just hit the switch and they got most everything they wanted," Brown said.

Center Brook Lopez led Brooklyn with 18 points, and forward Joe Johnson added 16, but those totals were not nearly enough. The Nets (10-28) dropped their 10th consecutive home game, the franchise's longest such skid since losing 14 in a row at the Meadowlands during the 70-loss 2009-10 season.

"Tony did a great job keeping the focus on basketball," Johnson said. "We have to fine tune."

Before the game, Brown said he will give some of the team's younger players more minutes to evaluate the roster. He also switched the starting backcourt to Wayne Ellington and Donald Sloan, but the duo combined for just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

NOTES: Nets GM Billy King was reassigned Sunday, and coach Lionel Hollins was dismissed. Team owner Mikhail Prokhorov said Monday morning he started to think about changes about a month and a half ago. Prokhorov did not cite any specific names for a replacement coach, but Kentucky's John Calipari has emerged as a possibility due to previous connections coaching the team from 1996-1999 and his friendship with Nets CEO Brett Yormark. ... Prokhorov said assistant GM Frank Zanin will run the front office on an interim basis. ... San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was asked about Hollins losing his job and said: "He's a good friend and heckuva coach. He understands how it all works. The business just (stinks). You always feel bad when a colleague gets sacked." ... San Antonio has made four visits to Brooklyn, and each time the Nets have had a different coach.

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